Lent is a season of spiritual retreat for the whole church.
In these 40 days we are invited to journey into the desert with Jesus, to enter a time of stripping back before we celebrate the miracle of Easter. It is a space to reflect and repent, allowing room for both lament and hope as we look towards the suffering and victory of the cross.
The practices of lectio divina and visio divina involve opening up a space for Holy Spirit to speak to us through meditating on words or images, which we’d encourage you to do as you use this resource. Click on the button below to find out more.
As we come towards the end of our journey through lent, we approach the brutal cross of Good Friday and wondrous empty tomb of Easter Sunday.
The strange mingling of sadness and joy, suffering and redemption resonates with what much of the world is experiencing and we are reminded that we share this path with Jesus. It is no new thing for grief to be juxtaposed with moments of joy, and for new life to appear in the midst of death. The mixing of these things is part of our human experience and one that Jesus himself shared.
The word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus is both fully human and fully God. It can be too easy to brush over the full humanity of Jesus as sometimes this seems less powerful when we look towards our saviour. We more often want to call upon the Jesus who is God, rather than Jesus the man who suffered and died as one of us. But the reality is Jesus embraced humanity in flesh and blood. All the simple pleasures and the heartbreak, the suffering and the joy. Before the triumph of Easter Sunday he lived and breathed and died, and in that lies the true power of the gospel.
This week we are going to reflect on ‘the body’; what it means in the light of the Easter story and experiencing life with God and each other.
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’
18 He replied, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, “The Teacher says: my appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.”’ 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’
When we read about Jesus last few hours with the disciples, one of the final things he chose to do was have a meal together. He broke bread and drank wine with his closest friends and his betrayer. The human necessity of eating and drinking took on a special significance at this final meal, and Jesus used these humble everyday items to illustrate forever the sacrifice he was preparing to make. He took the ordinary and made it sacred.
This was not new for Jesus, throughout his ministry he proclaimed the good news through things his followers encountered every day. While celebrating and remembering the last supper is part of our regular practice of communion, there might be other places in our everyday where we can open ourselves to encounter God in the ordinary. Where we can recognise the physical world we inhabit and the bodies we live in are not separate from the power and presence of God.
We would encourage you to think about a physical activity you do everyday. Perhaps it is the practice of preparing a coffee in the morning, taking a shower or going for a run or walk.
What in this engages your senses and makes you feel alive? What is there that awakens you to the presence of God?
Try writing a prayer that you can pray every day as you do this.
Here is one as an example:
As I begin this day, Lord may I know your presence.
As I cast off old clothes, would you remove from me the things that should be left behind. The resentments and anger, disappointments and frustrations. Help me to let them go.
As I step under the water, may I feel your warmth wash over me. You see me bare, with all my failings and insecurities exposed and yet still pour out your love upon me.
As I wash I thank you for your forgiveness and sacrifice. I remember all that you have done to cleanse me of my sin and make me right again with you.
As I feel the towel wrap around me, may I sense your everlasting arms encircling me today. Would they give me comfort and courage in all that I encounter.
As I put on fresh new clothes, may I know your provision as I begin the day. Would you protect and go with me, Holy Spirit guide and inspire me in how I can share your love with others.
When we reflect on ‘the body of Christ’ there are many things it can point us to; God’s people and the church, the broken bread of the Eucharist, and Jesus’ very human body on the cross.
All of these point to the gift that has been shared with us at great cost. God in his compassion came down to bring us close. Gave us his son who lived as one of us, was broken for the sake of the world and rose again drawing us into new life. And he gave us both his spirit and each other, so that together we might join in heralding this new creation.
Take some time to reflect on the words in this song, reflecting on both the great cost and the gift that we have received.